To explore veterinarians’ mental health symptom burden during COVID-19 and identify differences in symptom burden, social support, help seeking, and incentives and barriers associated with receiving help across career stages.
Online survey responses from 266 veterinarians between June 4 and September 8, 2021.
Respondents were grouped by career stage (early [< 5 years of experience], middle [5 to 19 years of experience], or late [≥ 20 years of experience]), and results were compared across groups.
Of the 262 respondents who reported years of experience, 26 (9.9%) were early career, 130 (49.6%) were midcareer, and 106 (40.4%) were late career. The overall mean anxiety and depression symptom burden score was 3.85 ± 3.47 (0 to 2 = normal; 3 to 5 = mild; 6 to 8 = moderate; and 9 to 12 = severe), with 62 of 220 (28.1%) respondents reporting moderate to severe symptom burden. Most (164/206 [79.6%]) reported not accessing behavioral health providers, and of these, 53.6% (88/164) reported at least mild symptom burden. There were significant differences in both symptom burden and mental health help-seeking intentions across career stages, with early- and midcareer (vs late-career) veterinarians reporting higher symptom burden (P = .002) and midcareer (vs late-career) veterinarians reporting higher help-seeking intentions (P = .006). Barriers and incentives for seeking mental health care were identified.
Findings revealed differences in symptom burden and intentions to seek mental health care across veterinary career stages. Incentives and barriers identified serve to explain these career stage differences.
To identify challenges veterinarians faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, explore how they coped, identify coping strategies associated with greater resilience, and determine incentives and barriers to performing healthy coping behaviors.
266 surveys completed by veterinarians in the Potomac region.
A cross-sectional survey was distributed electronically through veterinary medical boards and professional associations between June and September 2021.
Most survey responses came from veterinarians working in Maryland (128/266 [48%]) and Virginia (63/266 [24%]) who were predominantly white (186/266 [70%]), female (162/266 [61%]), and working in small-animal clinical practice (185/266 [70%]). The greatest workplace challenges experienced were increased workloads (195/266 [73%]) and reevaluating existing workflows (189/266 [71%]). Separation from loved ones (161/266 [61%]) was the greatest personal challenge. Of the veterinarians who completed the 10-point Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (n = 219), which measures resilience on a scale from 0 (no resilience) to 40 (greatest resilience), the mean score was 29.6 (SD, 6.9), with a median of 30 (IQR = 10). Intrinsic factors most strongly associated with greater resilience were increasing age (P = .01) and later career stage (P = .002). Job satisfaction, autonomy, good work-life balance, and approach-focused coping strategies were positively associated with resilience. Overwhelmingly, the primary reported barrier to performing healthy coping behaviors was limited time to devote to self-care (177/266 [67%]).
A combination of individual approach-focused coping strategies and organizational interventions are crucial to support a resilient veterinary workforce.